Has anyone done wire inlay?

I’d like to do a project that will benefit from silver wire inlay. Has anyone used their Shapeoko to cut the grooves? If so:

  • What gauge wire did you use?
  • What bit did you use?
  • Did you use any epoxy, or did you just hammer the wire into place?
  • Where did you source your wire?

Thanks in advance…

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I’d love to see this answer too. I’m getting ready to do another one with copper wire which I got from https://www.riogrande.com/

I used this wire (called a strip, which might help you find what you need) with a knife and a hammer. I used a blade just barely thinner than the strip and it worked great, but it made me glad I hadn’t tried to use the router. The strip which I got was perfect, but the dimensions for 28 ga. wire are 1/8" x .013" (3.18 x 0.33mm) which is pretty thin. I thought about using a vee bit to just touch the surface, but decided against it because I glued up the board and it’s definitely not perfectly flat.

Keep in mind I’m new at this but I can tell you epoxy is not necessary. Once you hammer the metal in it’s not going anywhere and you risk tearing it out if you mess with the surface too aggressively after it’s in.

Hope that helps, and I’d love to see what you end up doing.

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@adamrowe Thanks for that. I will share the result when it’s done.

It’s going to be a relatively thick wire…could be 1/16" or even 1/8" in thick.

I’m wondering if the groove has to be smaller than metal diameter, or if a perfect match is what I’m after. For example, I can get dead soft 16 gauge square wire which is 1/16" in diameter, or 9 gauge, which is 1/8"…I could cut the grooves with a 1/16" bit (312) or a 1/8" bit and set it to slightly shallower than diameter …which should let me hammer it in and deform it in the slot.

What do you think?

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I’m curious how you will handle height variations? A wood inlay can be sanded level at the end, but how will your wire handle that?

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The wire can sand (and polish) as well. High grit papers. I’m learning about it, so I’ll be doing a lot of experimentation before jumping in on the project. I was hoping some folks here had already done some of the leg work…but if not, I’ll share mine!

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You are def on the right path. If you are going shallow, I would not skip out on the epoxy just in case the wood decides to move. If I could remember anything about this one I could actually help more:



This one was done on the shapeoko, but it was a big piece of copper bar stock. Only thing I can share on this, if the metal inlay is going into a veneered surface it helps to get the depth spot on. Sanding down metal while trying not to go through veneer is not something I would call fun…

I will say with your woodworking skills it won’t take you but maybe one or two practice runs to feel completely comfortable with the process.

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Thank you! @Microwave_Monkey Scott!

I work mainly in solid woods - I hate veneers precisely for that reason…Since my work is all custom designed and one-time created - and I have local access to wonderful lumber - I can get away with that.

I’ll be experimenting with the width of the pocket…My gut tells me that ever so slightly narrower than the wire is going to be best, but maybe spot-on is better. As for depth, since I have complete control with the CNC, I see no reason to be as close to exact as possible.

Thanks!

  • Gary
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The experience I had with inlaying a hard wood into a soft wood was that the soft wood went away and left the hard wood standing. I ended up having to use a block plane to lower the hard wood. I would think there is a similar effect with the wire. I suppose it depends on the project, though.

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I’ve watched people use files to lower wire/metal inlay down to the wood surface. Just remove the handle from the file and it can be run over the whole surface.

Card scrapers can also bring softer metals down and with a bit of practice they work great. I’ve use them in place of lower grit sand paper as much as possible. Sanding is for suckers. Also, they won’t push the dust from say the inlay wood into the surrounding wood. This can be an issue with sanding.

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I’m debating whether to put that on my workshop wall… But I DO sand…

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My wife sent me to Michaels to get some baking stuff. I am not a fan of the place…I think it’s the mini shipping carts. Anyway, while wandering, I stumbled on some 12ga aluminum wire and immediately thought of this thread and had to try it.
Here’s the first go.
The amateurish and impatient wire shoving gives it a pretty nice sparkle effect that doesn’t quite come through in the pictures. I think it’ll look pretty nice when I put a finish on the walnut. I might add some text. I may try surfacing it all flush… Not sure. Any ideas?
Design was in Inkscape. Set the width to 2.05mm (about the diameter of 12ga wire)
CAM done in Fusion.
Endmill - cheap 1/16", 2 flute
Took a few minutes to carve and about 10 to shove the wire in.

Was thinking of doing something similar with EL wire.


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Next time, slow down and use a hardwood block to hammer that wire into the groove. Perhaps make the groove deeper.

Then skim the top off to make it flat. That will require that you add glue to the groove to hold the wire in place.

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I like your prototype. Sigh, so many things to try, so little time.

inlays AND shiny lights ? very interesting idea…

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I’m glad you gave it a go! I can see where it’s going and it looks good! Thanks for this feedback.

I’ve completed the design for my project and have modeled it. I’ve sent the renderings to the client, so if I get the job, I’ll share the process. Things look promising, but until you have the deposit in hand, you never know!

I plan to use a metal called “Argentium” - which is fundamentally like sterling silver without the tarnishing. Jewelry sites sell the stuff and it’s not too expensive. They sell it in square wire, which will be perfect for my design as I don’t have any curves to navigate…I’ll be clipping wire to length and mitering corners. I plan to use 1/8" bits and 11 gauge jewelry wire (which is an exact match in dimensions - .125") and setting the wire to the full 1/8" depth. I’ll be tacking the ends of each piece with glue and leaving the balance to friction.

My business is all custom pieces, designed to fit very specific situations - and as such, I’m often challenged with new techniques and materials. That makes it exciting and new each time…but it also raises the stress level! It’s great to have a community to bounce ideas off of and who get obsessed with the techniques as much as I do! So, thanks for trying this out @neilferreri!

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@neilferreri - would you mind trying that with a groove set to 2.778mm? According to Google, that should be the exact dimension of 12GA wire. I’d love to see what happens if you set the wire in a groove that’s 2.778 wide by 1.389mm deep (1/2 height)…since your wire is round, it “should” fit perfectly and dome-up from the board.

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That was the original plan, but it made too much noise. The kids were sleeping. I was impatient. The wavy pattern really does capture the light, but I’m not sure how I’d do it consistently. Maybe a wavy bottomed slot.

I like the domed idea, my original thought was to create a true inlay. I have more wire to test.

Hmmm…my Google searches came up with just over 2.05mm. I should just measure, but it seemed to be pretty close.

Believe me, I’d rather be doing epoxy pours and wavy trivets, but wire inlay sounded doable in a few minutes.

It’s a rounding issue in calculating the nearest empirical fraction. 12 Gauge is 7/16" which is 2.778mm…but 12 Gauge to mm is 2.058mm … so I’m guessing your estimate is more accurate.

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Update: Hammered the wire “flush” then faced with a 1/4" endmill, 0.2mm doc, 4444mm/min.


Everything is flush, smooth and shimmery. No gaps other than one mistake I made when I used too much force while initially smashing the wire in.

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Looks a lot like success!

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I may have ordered a length of El wire to test something similar, what kind of hammer and facing endmill would you recommend for that ? :crazy_face:

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